Remember the career advice you received in school? For most young people, the push to make even a vague decision about their future is bewildering. Whether farming was a natural choice for you or a curiosity, your experience can inspire the next generation to consider it.
We asked key influencers in the industry how farmers can help promote it.
“Smart career choice”
In 2016, The Guardian reported that agriculture has become the “fastest growing subject at UK universities, with a 4.6% increase in student numbers.” Students are interested not only in animals but food and engineering too. Multiple interests widens the career path significantly.
Rachel Lumley has worked in the sheep industry for a number of years. It’s a “sustainable, exciting and legitimate career path,” she says. The challenge is to “build up a UK sheep industry that people actually want to work in for the right reasons.” This, says Lumley, will improve opportunities for entrants into the field which gives farming a greater appeal.
To do this, Will Wilson (founder of the Young Farmers Forum) believes we need to safeguard young farmers in three key areas: financial security, mental health and longevity. “This generation, more than any recent generations will be working in an environment of volatility and little outside financial support,” he says. “As a result, they will have to be more financially astute than previous generations.” Emotional resilience is also important.
Day to day, lone working can have a negative impact on mental health. A new awareness of the need to be part of a team and greater support for mental health is a generous development, but these days “labour moves easily and skills are transferable,” says Wilson. Young farmers must be prepared for this too: “I would expect to see the ability to develop the business and expand the operation quickly as high priority for any new entrant,” he says.
However, “it’s hard not to love fresh air, space and outdoors.” - Hannah Jackson, former Next Generation Ambassador, National Sheep Association.
The pros and cons of farming
When we asked Beef and Dairy Farmer, James Robinson, why students might choose farming he told us his first thought was, ‘Why would anybody want to be a dairy farmer?’ “The hours are unsociable,” he said, “there’s no denying that.”
But then he thought about the benefits: “To start the day working with a herd of dairy cows is like no other job. Show anyone how to properly work with cattle and they’ll immediately became hooked,” says Robinson. In his own words, the joys far outweigh the sorrows:
“To see a calf being born and to hear that first gasp of air, knowing that you’ve cared for that cow, possibly even from when she was a calf herself, gives you a connection to the work unrivalled in any other occupation. Of course, there’s fantastic technology in all aspects of dairy farming, in the milking parlour, the calf shed or the tractors we drive every day. But send anyone to fetch the cows for milking on a bright summer’s morning, with the sun just peeping over the hedgerows, swallows flying low, catching flies from amongst the cow’s legs and they’ll never wish to do anything else.”
Robinson’s initial question transformed into, ‘Why would anyone want to do any other job?’
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